Which motorcycle is right for me?
Not only performance and design have to be taken into account when buying a motorcycle, the size of the bike is equally crucial.
From sports, choppers, and enduros to adventure tourers and lightweight motorcycles the range of bikes available in the market is overwhelmingly diverse today.
This creates another big problem; this one or that one? Which motorcycle the rider ultimately decides on when buying depends on many factors. First of all, the available budget: Is it enough for a new bike, or do you prefer to look through the second-hand market? Or are you perhaps influenced by the opinions of others?
If you are looking for an ideal motorcycle, it is worth taking a closer look at every aspect. The following factors should be taken into account so that you can enjoy on your motorcycle right from the start.
Define the purpose of your purchase
|Intra-city commuting (short distances)
|Compact, fuel-efficient, convenient, and maneuverable
|This segment is dominated by small-stroke scooters, such as the Honda Metropolitan or Yamaha Zuma 125.
|Practical, fuel-efficient and maneuverable, but still has enough power to ride on highways and country roads at moderate speeds.
|Royal Enfield Classic 350, Honda Forza 350 and BMW C 400X fall under this category.
|A very wide segment since entry-level bikes come in a variety of specifications. They are intended to be user-friendly, forgiving and approachable to facilitate the learning process.
|Some beginner naked bikes include KTM Duke 125 and Honda Grom. Beginner cruisers include Honda Rebel 500 and beginner tourers include Honda CB500X.
|Long distance touring
|Practical, comfortable, offers luggage space, rider assisting features, sporty.
|BMW F 900 XR and Kawasaki Versys 1000.
|Speed, handling, light chassis and appropriate brakes.
|Mid-range race bikes include Kawasaki ZX-6R or Yamaha MT-07. High displacement race bikes include BMW S1000 RR or Ducati SuperSport 950.
|Naked bikes are versatile two-wheelers. Amenable, accessible, relatively sporty, and relatively comfortable.
|Triumph Street Triple RS, and Yamaha MT-10.
|Hard enduros and other related bikes that are tough. Unbreakable, low weight, good handling and decent suspension travel.
|KTM 350 EXC-F and Honda CRF450R.
|Robust, comfortable, space for sufficient cargo, suitable for light off-road use.
|Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, BMW F850GS Adventure, and Triumph Tiger 1200.
Choose between the motorcycle type
In our experience, you should be clear about type of motorcycle you personally like:
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced biker, if you want to buy a motorcycle, the first thing you should do is to keep your preferred choice of motorcycle type in mind. Manufacturers offer motorcycles in a variety of styles that appeal to different types of riders; from cruisers to city bikes to cross pilots. The brief overview below will provide the preliminary information that will help you decide the motorcycle type.
Note: Each motorcycle has its own pros and cons somewhere. You should take a closer look at them and consider whether you can and want to work with them or not.
Naked bikes or sports touring bikes are the classic types here, as they are usually also used as learning motorcycles in driving schools. Since they make the transition easier, all-rounders are ideal motorcycles for beginners. As an everyday bike, they have the right balance for short and long-distance touring.
A conventional design supported with full fairings is ideal for bikers who like to ride their motorcycle on country roads or highways. And for someone who cannot look beyond superbikes, super sports, or streetfighters.
Tourers, sports tourers and touring enduros are made solely for long-distance riding and thus offer a lot of comfort as well as plenty of space for luggage. This feature makes them ideal for riders who use their bikes for recreational purposes, such as weekend tours and getaways.
Enduros or motocross are built for off-road riding and thus offer the right profile for cross-country riders. With the appropriate configuration, they can also make their bikes road legal.
Vintage / Classic
For fans of vintage models, there are classic bikes in various designs built around the features of tourers and naked bikes. A big trend is retro bikes, which combines modern technology with a traditional look and appeal.
Other popular variants are Café racers, Scramblers, Cruisers and US-style Choppers.
For an in-depth guide, you can refer to our article: Types of motorcycles you should know before buying
Also ask yourself these questions:
- Do you want to do a lot of long-distance tours?
- Do you prefer weekend getaways?
- Do you need to commute to your office every day?
Once this has been sorted out, it’s time to try it out for all it’s worth. Go to any dealer who has the bike you want on display. If you are too short, ask what else can be done to lower the bike. And if there is really no motorcycle model in the desired category that fits, then you may have to consider low seat height motorcycles.
Read more: Beginner motorcycles for short riders
Choose the right engine
Unlike cars, there are many different types of engine designs for motorcycles. This rundown outlines the primary types and their respective characteristics.
This is the oldest type of motorcycle engine. It is available in air-cooled and liquid-cooled versions. Generally installed with the cylinder upright or slightly inclined forwards.
Currently available in displacements from 125 to 690 ccs and typically as a four-stroke engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves. These are generally used in enduros, off-road bikes, as well as in beginner motorcycles.
- Advantage: Low repair costs, easy to maintain, compact dimensions, and light in weight.
- Disadvantage: Relatively moderate power output with significant vibrations.
V-engine, Twin cylinders (transversely mounted)
Like the single cylinder, the V2 is one of the oldest types of motorcycle engine. It is used today with different cylinder angles: 45° (Harley), 48° (Yamaha MT-01), 50° (Victory), 52° (Honda), 54° (Suzuki Intruder 1800), 55° (Kawasaki VN), 60° (Aprilia RSV Mille, Yamaha XVS), 75° (KTM), and 90° (Ducati).
V2 units are among the most versatile engine types, being installed in a wide variety of motorcycles depending on cylinder angle and displacement: Choppers, cruisers, touring enduros, all-rounders, supersport bikes, etc.
- Advantage: Small overall dimensions (except 90°), fairly high torque even on small displacements.
- Disadvantage: Strong vibrations (except at 90°) and high thermal load on the rear cylinder in air-cooled engines.
V-engine, 2 and 4 cylinders (longitudinally mounted)
You will rarely find these engines today. It usually comes as a two-cylinder (air cooled) or four-cylinder (liquid cooled) with a 90-degree cylinder angle.
- Advantage: Low mounting position and low center of gravity.
- Disadvantage: Large dimensions with considerable wobbling during gear change.
V-engine, 4 cylinders (transversely mounted)
The transversely mounted V4 is seldom used: Honda VFR, VFR 1200 F (90°-cylinder angle), Aprilia RSV 4, and Yamaha Vmax (65°-cylinder angle). Common design is with two overhead camshafts per cylinder bank with four valves per cylinder and a liquid cooling system.
- Advantage: Small structural dimensions, excellent running characteristics, high revving power.
- Disadvantage: Expensive to maintain, complex exhaust system.
In-line engine: 2, 3, 4 and 6 cylinders
The most common engine design in which the cylinders are arranged parallel to each other. Mounting position in most cases is transverse with upright or forward leaning angles. These are widely used today with dual overhead camshafts, four valves, and liquid cooling.
Used in almost all motorcycle categories, from entry-level to super sports bikes, from enduros and all-rounders to luxury touring bikes, in displacements from 250 to 1650 cc’s.
- Advantage: Small overall dimensions especially in two- and three-cylinder engines, well balanced center of gravity and thus low vibration.
- Disadvantage: Large overall dimensions for four- and six-cylinder engines.
A parallel twin is somewhat an unconventional engine in which the pistons move up and down at the same time.
- Advantage: High torque at low and medium revs.
- Disadvantage: Strong vibrations at high rpm which are counterbalanced either by a shaft or connecting rod.
As a two-cylinder engine, it is used in enduros, tourers, naked bikes, and sports. It is now available with liquid cooling, but the older air/oil-cooled version is still used in the models of the R-nineT family. Even Honda uses the boxer engine with six cylinders in the Gold Wing.
- Advantage: Good center of gravity, low mounting position, and easy to maintain.
- Disadvantage: Complex as well as expensive engine with large dimensions.
How to find the right motorcycle size
The different profiles of the motorcycle types can usually be used to narrow down which motorcycle suits you best. But design and appearance alone should not be the deciding factor when buying. Rather, you should also pay attention to the most important characteristic; the seat height.
You can simplify the search for a motorcycle that suits your body size particularly well with a trick. To do this, measure the distance from the sole of your foot to the top of your inseam. This will determine your ideal seat height. Initially, take the measurement without shoes and if necessary, you can subsequently compare the result with riding boots.
If you have already decided on a motorcycle, but it does not completely meet your height requirements, it is possible – depending on the model – to add extra padding. Get professional advice on this from the specialist you trust.
In order to quickly show you in which range of seat height you should select the motorcycle, we have calculated and determined the appropriate seat height basis the body sizes.
Less than 160 cm
The height of the seat plays a decisive role. That’s why you should test on the model itself whether the feet can hold securely on the ground. And if that is not possible, make sure that you are choosing your motorcycle in accordance with the above data. For riders of smaller stature, it’s best if the motorcycle has adjustable seat.
Intermediate riders can of course choose a slightly higher seat
As a beginner, you should generally not opt for a heavy machine. Instead, start with a lighter model. Remember, the more relaxed you feel on the motorcycle, the better.
If the weight of the motorcycle is too much and you feel uncomfortable as a result, the bike is not right for you. For example, if your body weight is around 60 kg, it is not recommended to buy a 300 kg motorcycle.
It is best to take an in-depth test ride. This is the only way to determine whether the machine really suits you and corresponds to your body size. Furthermore, it is important that you can easily handle the bike and are comfortable riding it.
Many motorcyclists focus primarily on the design and construction of the machine: Sometimes a sense of uneasiness becomes prominent during the test ride, this perception is often suppressed or ignored under the assumption that they need to get over the familiarization phase.
However, experts believe that this is seldom the case. Rather, the rider should feel comfortable sitting on the machine right from the start. Only then can a motorcycle and his rider form a bond.
Browse the internet and online forums to find out what other bikers have experienced with a particular model. Or how it performed in tests conducted by professionals. Because these reports often provide more helpful information than the manufacturers’ brochure. This makes it easier to assess whether the performance of a motorcycle really meets your expectations.
Engine displacement and torque are not the only decisive factors when it comes to buying a new or used motorcycle. When it comes to maintenance, the class of motorcycle also plays a role. For example, motorcycle insurance for a 250cc Yamaha V Star will be much less when compared with 750cc Harley Davidson Street. So, if you are looking for a budget motorcycle, it’s better to go with smaller displacements and compare the cost of insurance premiums before buying.
Tip: Many manufacturers introduce new generations of models at short intervals, but these often only differ visually, for example in terms of the colors offered. In that case, you can sometimes save a lot of money when opting for a discontinued color.
A powerful machine allows for fast acceleration over shorter distances. But keep this in mind that a high-performance engine, which has more engine torque, can be a challenge to ride in the rain. This is manageable in a straight line, but it is more than likely that the rear wheel will spin around a corner. Moreover, the art of motorcycle braking comes with time and practice. Are you willing to take that risk on such a powerful engine?
And, while power itself is one important factor, it is also (and above all) important to see when it is available. A motorcycle with maximum power and especially maximum torque in the last third of the engine’s operating range (engine speed) will be difficult to use, at least not in safe conditions.
To start off a heavy motorcycle, you will require strength to dominate it. The technique and the expertise in balancing the bike will progressively improve with time, but the weight of the motorcycle will always influence while slowing down.
Beyond 220 kilograms, a motorcycle is not made for a beginner (unless you are very strong). Maneuvering at low speed, parking, and riding in traffic jams can be a pain in the ass (literally).
Therefore, you should pay attention to the specifications of the manufacturer w.r.t the weight. As a rule, the dry weight (unfueled state) and the wet weight (full tank) are specified. Especially for women and novice riders, it is advisable to choose a lighter machine that is easier to hold.
New or used motorcycle?
If you have a decent budget, it’s amazing to be able to choose the best model on the market according to your personality. But if you are on a tight budget, the choices available in used bike markets are extensive as well. For beginners, it is in fact the most convenient option!
When you buy a new motorcycle, you are assured of some advantages: warranty, payment options, and impeccable condition of the bike, and although all this has a price, it comes with a peace of mind. When acquiring a used motorcycle, the price is always much lower and if its condition is good, it is often worthy over a new motorcycle. A used motorcycle is usually a good option to start, beginners will take their first step with less worries and in case of an accident, you won’t incur a huge financial loss.
Things to remember if you decide to buy a new bike
It will not be much harder for you to find “your better half”, you have a wide range of options to choose from. It is highly likely that during the first year you will barely visit a garage or need any spare parts. However, the minute you leave the dealer’s door, the price would have been reduced by approximately 20%. So, if you sell it after a few months, you will be losing money.
Things to remember if you decide to buy a used bike
For the same amount of money (new bike budget), you can find a premium used bike. You can easily find good bargains; all you need is a little patience and time. However, you need to be careful, beginners are often deceived when they are buying a used motorcycle.
Our recommendation; if you are a beginner, second hand bike is a good option.
For an in-depth guide on buying a used motorcycle, you can visit this page: Tips for buying a used motorcycle
Deals and discounts offered on the two-wheeler market are almost incomprehensible. For a targeted and systematic search, we recommend sorting out the following questions in advance:
- Which two-wheeler is suitable for the intended purpose?
- Do you intend to buy a new or used bike?
- What is your budget? It is essential to consider follow-up costs such as insurance, taxes and fuel!
- How does professional reviewers and motorcycle forums on the web rate the desired model?
- Is there a dealer and a service center nearby?
In addition, it is especially important that the motorcycle fits your body size and proportion. After all, only those who can easily maneuver will be able to enjoy their machine. This is what you should bear in mind:
- You should be able to sit as upright as possible on the motorcycle.
- The handlebars must be in your easy reach even when the steering is fully turned.
- You should feel comfortable when you are riding it.
- And most importantly, both feet should be able to touch the ground.